Hales misses out on century again
Alex Hales admits his frustration at narrowly missing a maiden Test century for the second successive time in under a week.
But after following his 86 at Headingley with 83 on day one against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street, he is confident he is doing plenty right as a Test opener.
Hales and Joe Root (80) both appeared to have a hundred in their sights, before getting out with all the hard work done as England reached stumps on 310 for six after winning the toss in this second Investec Test.
There was an extra element of unwanted symmetry for Hales too, because as in Leeds he fell trying to attack a spinner.
This time, a moment of brilliance from Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews - diving to his right to take a one-handed catch at slip - accounted for him when he edged a cut at Milinda Siriwardana, having just hit the slow left-armer over his head for six. Reflecting on his dismissal, Hales said: "It was a combination of surprise, frustration and anger - disappointed obviously to get out again in the 80s."
England secured the advantage by stumps, but it was a mixed day which began with captain Alastair Cook falling once again short of a prized career aggregate of 10,000 Test runs.
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford acknowledges the match situation - but is encouraged by his players' reaction to their innings trouncing in the first Test.
He said of England: "They're probably slightly ahead on the day. But I'm pretty proud of how our boys stuck to it."